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I.Coast's Gbagbo tells ICC he 'fought for democracy'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday told the International Criminal Court which is weighing whether to charge him with crimes against humanity that he had always been pro-democracy.

"All my life, I fought for democracy," Gbagbo told the court that will decide whether to charge him over 2010-2011 post-election violence in the west African nation that claimed over 3,000 lives.

Gbagbo, 67, is the first former head of state brought before the ICC, where he is accused of masterminding a campaign of violence during the presidential vote standoff in the world's largest cocoa producer.

Gbagbo, speaking for the first time in court since December 2011, denied charges of nepotism.

"I don't govern with my family," Gbagbo told the court.

"I was president, head of state, and my wife was an MP," he said of second wife Simone, who is being held in Ivory Coast despite the ICC having also issued a warrant for her arrest.

Gbagbo maintains that he was evicted in favour of his rival, current President Alassane Ouattara, thanks to a plot led by former colonial ruler France.

He faces four counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly fomenting the wave of violence as he refused to hand over to election winner Ouattara after 10 years in power. He has denied the charges against him.

"I never thought that war would be the solution for Ivory Coast, I never thought that, I always thought that would be through dialogue," Gbagbo said.

The prosecution says Gbagbo masterminded a plan to "stay in power by all means... through carefully planned, sustained and deadly attacks" against Ouattara supporters.

Between November 28, 2010 and May 8, 2011 Gbagbo's forces killed between 706 and 1,059 people and raped more than 35 women, prosecutors say.

Gbagbo's lawyers say the ICC proceedings are a "political trial".

"Do not confirm the charges, that's the best way to deliver justice," said Gbagbo's lawyer Emmanuel Altit.

"It's the only way to achieve national reconciliation in Ivory Coast," he added.

The prosecution said on Thursday it had "provided all evidence to back it's position."

The evidence relates to four main incidents: the brutal crushing of an opposition march on Ivorian state television in commercial capital Abidjan in December 2010, the putting down of a women's march in Abobo, Abidjan, an attack on a market in the same neighbourhood and reprisals carried out by Gbagbo supporters in Yopougon, also in Abidjan, between April and May 2011.

Prosecutors and the defence have spent just over a week arguing their cases before a three-judge bench, which has 60 days from Thursday to decide if there are "substantial grounds to believe that Gbagbo committed the crimes" and should be charged.

mbr/cjo/jhe/jz

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130228/icoasts-gbagbo-tells-icc-he-fought-democracy-0